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Xinjiang Seeks New Silk Road in Air

A tourism boom is reviving the faded splendor of the ancient Silk Road, said Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region tourism official Chi Chongqing in the capital city of Urumqi on Saturday.

Some 275,400 visitors traveled to Xinjiang from abroad in 2002, and the region earned US$99.4 million. The figures stand in sharp contrast to those of 1978: a mere 88 visitors and earnings totaling US$46,000.

Occupying one-sixth of China's land area, Xinjiang was once a vital connection between East and West and a hub of the Silk Road trade route linking China and Europe. However, when the economic center of China moved to the southeast after the Tang dynasty (618–907), the region became desolate.

But with a wealth of travel and tourism resources, industry revenue growth has now outstripped that of GDP. Tourism is creating plentiful job opportunities for minority groups, with the total number of employees now reaching 100,000.

Chi said that it is hoped that Xinjiang will once again be a transport hub to the west, but this time an air route hub. It is envisioned as a connection center for Chinese travelers visiting neighboring Central Asian nations, for East and Southeast Asian flights westbound to Europe and for eastbound Central Asian flights.

(Xinhua News Agency July 26, 2004)

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